The latest domestic issue in Israel is the matter of drafting yeshiva students to serve in the Israeli Army or other national service (the latter including but not limited to those who dig in the rubble of buildings destroyed by terrorists' bombs and missiles, to find survivors).
I agree that Israel and the Jewish people have a need for Torah to be studied, and that the many individuals who are cut out for the task should be facilitated in doing so. I believe that in G-d's greater cosmic plan, Israel's continued existence is dependent upon it.
Certain religiously-observant insular groups view the proposed conscription of their own as improper exposure to the negative influences of the non-religious. And, to be sure, military service has, in all nations, proven to carry its share of morally negative influences, part of the price to be paid for liberty and security.
But those who serve in the military -- and their families -- resent what they perceive as gross ingratitude by the yeshiva crowd. Each time the telephone rings, those who send their sons to learn in yeshiva full time do not experience quite the same dread and tribulation as those whose sons -- or daughters -- serve in the military, particularly in the armed services of a country such as Israel. My own cousin has a son in the Israeli Army, in a combat unit. She can never feel totally calm in those seconds before she answers her ringing telephone.
And then, there are special units of yeshiva students who do serve in the Israeli Army. Their service record, collectively, is among the best.
I do believe that a significant segment if not a majority of the non-religious Israeli population would not object to nonconscription from the insular religious communities if it were known that the yeshiva learners were studying Torah with the specific purpose of doing so for the welfare of the non-religious soldiers on the front lines. Unfortunately, too many insular rabbinical leaders have condoned if not encouraged from amongst their followerships too many incidents of contempt for their fellow Jews who happen to not yet be religiously observant. These incidents of contempt and violence shall not be glorified with specifics; it suffices to say that the contempt and violence are real.
With that background, I note that the 4 July 2012 issue of the Hamodia newspaper contained, in its Inyan Magazine supplement, an article entitled "Kol Nidre in a Foxhole: Recollections of a frum World War II Veteran." The article recounts Irving ("Yitzchak") Lang, a religious American Jew who served in the U.S. Army during the invasion of Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge, and has plenty of medals, ribbons and citations to show for it.
Mr. Lang is praised in Hamodia, a newspaper of the insular religious Jewish community, as someone who fought the good fight against Hitler, against those who sought to destroy the Jewish people. Hamodia has, of course come out against the conscription of the young people from the insular religious Jewish communities in Israel. I do not know what Hamodia's editors had in mind in running the article, but I do not believe it to be a mere coincidence.
My question: Are the Muslim forces who threaten Israel any less hostile to the Jews than the Nazis were? Are their intentions any more benevolent? And if not, then shouldn't those who serve in the Israeli Army be given no less respect than that accorded to Irving Lang?
And not that it especially matters, but my own son, who currently is learning in a yeshiva in Israel, is now seriously considering enlisting in the Israeli Army.